All About that Base

Posse.  Sit the F DOWN!  I’mo talk to you about that base.  In perfume.  Woot!  Okay – maybe not a deep dive into perfume but there will be a couple of comparisons.  I know, right?  Musette yarking on about PERFUME!  LOL! The Apocalypse is NIGH!

I’m lying through my teeth.  This is a hopscotch around music and perfume.  or maybe velociraptors.  I dunno.  I keep editing this to make it sound less insane – and yet it’s still sounding mad as a hatter (and I am not even huffing mercury nitrate- did you know that’s where that saying comes from?   You’re welcome)

But first… Why We’re Even Talking About This.  Okay.  It starts with music, specifically mid-range torch singers and how the best of them incorporate their musicians, especially their rhythm sections, into their stylings. Let’s start with Diana Krall.

I know a lot of hardcore straight-ahead jazz aficionados hate on Ms Krall but I posit that they are looking at her style from the wrong angle.  As with a lot of quality musicians with mid-level vocal skills but excellent instrumentation Ms Krall actually uses her voice as a bridge, rather than the focus of the song.  By the time you finish swooning through her piano work and some incredible (but incredibly subtle) bass/rhythm  and the plush magnificence of her orchestral backing, Krall’s quiet, breathy voice is actually a bit of a relief.  She knows her voice is… fine … and she’s fine with that.  Unlike stronger (ha! ) singers like Ella or Sarah, she doesn’t even try to push it to the forefront (to be fair, they didn’t either – it is just THERE, like a velvet ICBM tossed in your lap).  As a musician Krall is a pro – she has an amazing understanding of arrangement (I mean, she had the late Johnny Mandel arrange and  production was Tommy LiPuma (I would let him produce my LIFE, ‘ceptin’ he’s dead, alas).  Even if I didn’t love her for these seamless understandings of How It Works I would adore her for bringing mainstream jazz standards to a new generation.  ‘Dancing in the Dark’ as bossa nova? Aiyy, chica, YES!

Now.  How does this dovetail with perfume, you ask?  Well, glad you asked (you did ask, right?).  I’ve been bingeing torchies for the last few days (my nerves are jangled and Krall & Shirley Horn really help bring my BP down; Eliane Elias, a Brazilian musician, is another stunning pianist/singer but her verve is a little less calming)… and my mind skittered into wondering how their music translates to perfume.

I’ve decided that they are all Chanel (minus No5, which is its own perfect fissionable material)… it’s one of those elegant houses where I cannot parse any of the perfumes, and that is a beautiful thing. Remember  I said Krall is a pro?  Well, whenever I smell a Chanel the first word that comes to mind is ‘pro’.    Unlike other Houses I have never been able to identify any of the base notes in a Chanel composition – and I like that.  Even the new ones are relatively seamless.  Krall is, specifically, 1932. The top notes in 1932 are ‘twinkling stars’ much as is Krall’s piano work  (and also as Ahmad Jamal (h/t Queen C for that description) provided for Shirley Horn when her foot amputation required her to step away from the piano.  Can you imagine?  AHMAD JAMAL steps in when you can’t (and yes, there are TWO tacky puns in there – deal with it).  On Krall’s ‘The Look of Love’ CD Christian McBride provides an elegant bass line that is undeniably complex and Alpha strong but never, ever, EVER steps out of line – he is the consummate professional, at the top of his game, and knows his instrument’s place in the composition – persackly like Chanel’s own base line in their perfumes.  1932 is perfection: Christian McBride bass line –  there,  solid,  utterly necessary – but it isn’t showboating.  It’s … seamless, pinning those ‘twinkling stars’ of Diana Krall’s piano to the night sky.

Ms. Horn is slower (okay – Shirley is SLOW.  Periodt.  Her drummer once said you could step out and smoke a blunt in between notes, she’s that slow). And she is a deeper, smokier vocalist because she’s old (and, alas, also now dead) and that’s how her voice rolls.  But still, a seamless composition.  You hear and feel – but don’t focus on – her rhythm section; they are necessary as air to her voice and piano and she makes sure they are showcased without any showboating.  I think of her as Cuir de Russie.  Even in the vintage perfume, the butter-soft leather is stitched seamlessly into the rest of the notes (the opposite of Knize Ten, which is like getting smacked in the face with a catcher’s mitt).  In CdR it presents itself in its own time.  You can’t huff it into existence; I know, I’ve tried).  It’s elegant. rounded. perfection.  Strong-but-fragile  smoothness, much like Ms Horn’s work.

Ms Elias is – and always shall be – vintage Coco.  A jewel in March’s pantheon, Coco’s a bit difficult for my wearing but there’s no denying its magnificence.  It has the same warm muscularity that Ms Elias presents in her stylings (all 3 of these women WERK that piano; I think that instrument respects them every bit as much as it respects Maestros Jamal and Evans. I saw Maestro Jamal perform and could swear that concert grand backed up a step and bowed to him.  Elias’s bassist (her husband, Marc Johnson, (who also played with Maestro Evans) keeps that steady, warm, strong line going – he’s not walking that bass, he’s sexing it ALL the way up, with love and devotion.  The whole band is the embodiment of the sensuality of Coco. I’d like to crawl all over their music with a jar of dulce de leche.

With all that, I’m not unaware of the irony of assigning a magnificent House considered ‘chilly’  to a segment of music that is anything but chilly – but for these 3 musicians it is my only answer.  I think it’s because they know who they are as musicians and are perfectly cool with their quiet magnificence – and it works on every level.  Huh.  Have any of you ever assigned a House or a perfume to a musician? (my beloved Ray Brown will forever be Guerlain Vetiver, lightly applied, and the resin smell of his upright bass )  A musical genre?

Let a nutter know!  I have a lovely set (ha!  I typed ‘sex’ first.  Need to get a grip) of Liz Zorn/Soivohle samples – since we’re talking base? she’s got a signature one that sings!  I can identify a Zorn in my sleep.  ‘Reader’ (one of the samples) is glorious.  I don’t want to let it out of my sight but because I love you  I’mo have TGirl poke a pawnail and I’ll let it, along with its siblings, out into the Posseverse.

  • Thank you, Anita! ?

    • Musette says:

      Babysnakes! Thank you for stopping by (okay, I yanked you over here – but I wanted you to know just how much your musicianship is adored. Ms Krall, Maestro Godfather.. errybody else… they have THE BEST taste!!

      xoxox to you and yours!

  • Maureen Ruf says:

    Nancy Wilson would be Chanel #19…icy cool, with a soft side.

  • Maggiecat says:

    I love Diana Krall and I love 1932 and you’re right, they go perfectly together!

  • Patty says:

    DK is, indeed, amazing! I’m with you on a well-blended perfume. It can’t be muddy, but things need to meld up next to the other things. DNEM

  • carole macleod says:

    Really great topic! I don’t have much to add except to say I’ve been lucky enough to see DK in concert-many, many times. She would tour the Maritimes a lot. I saw her with her Trio in 1995 and 1996. The sports writer for the local newspaper covered it-said she was nice to look at but her voice was just meh 🙂 Sexism at its finest. If you ever get the chance to see her live performances go-she’s as amazing in real life.

    • Musette says:

      well, he is sexist – but he isn’t wrong. I wouldn’t hate on him quite so much, had he noticed her musicianship, as well.


  • grizzlesnort says:

    I paraphrase –Joni Mitchell laughed and said, “I only have three notes left.” And Renee Fleming looked at her a moment and said, ” Yes, but I really want to hear those three notes.” Likewise, Krall’s is not a great voice but she knows her instrument and how to use it. And I may add, Musette knows how to write a post here. too. Thanks.

    • Musette says:

      oh, shizz! Sh!t! Floydamussy! Did you just put me in the same paragraph with Joni Mitchell AND Renee Fleming (and without a negative qualifier)? O.M.G.


  • VerbenaLuvvr says:

    I do so love Diana Krall! Girl does so know how to give a performance, that is for sure. My earworm of hers is “Let’s Fall in Love”. The only perfume house that I’ve ever assigned to a musician or genre is Escada, makes me want to listen and dance to salsa music.

    • Musette says:

      well! there ya go! You can come over here anytime, reeking of the beautiful Escada, as I usually have salsa on, well into the night!


  • Dina C. says:

    I swoon over this essay Anita! I have enjoyed Diana Krall’s music for a long time. Favorite CD: Quiet Nights. Song that was a total earworm for me: her cover of Joni’s “A Case of You.” Even better, Chanel is my favorite house, so your marriage of torch songs and their scents seems lovely to me. I’m on board! I’d add Norah Jones to your roster and give her 31 Rue Cambon!!!

    • Musette says:

      Omgosh! Thank you for those kind words. I wouldn’t have thought about Norah Jones..except she blew it out of the park on the ‘Speak Low’ duet with my beloved Tony Bennett .So. for that she gets 31RC,with my compliments. Xoxo

  • Queen-Cupcake says:

    Musette, you’ve mentioned a few of my very favorite musicians! I’ve been lucky enough to hear some of them live: Krall, Elias, & Jamal. I usually have the some kind of music running in my head–I call it the Brain Radio. Can’t seem to shut it off but at least I can call up the right stations, LOL. As to perfume, I might be susceptible to connecting with the music but I’m not sure it is a conscious thing. Intriguing, though. Must do some experiments. Yes, Diana Krall is very Chanel, and you are spot on about her approach–she is a very smart singer, and a hot pianist. I would love to find a scent that brings on traditional Balinese gamelan. And Miles Davis or Coltrane? Something smoky, I bet. Love this post! XOX

    • Musette says:

      Omg! I’m still laughing about the radio!!! I have Roy Hargrove (and David ‘Fathead Newman on a “Nearness of You’ loop in my brain.
      Ever. stankin’ . NOTE has wired itself into my neural net.. Coltrane on the gamelan, for sure!!!

  • Kathleen says:

    I am also learning so much about music from reading your posts Musette. Thank you for the insight! I am now a Bill Evans fan.
    I am also a fan of all Chanel perfume (except Coco Mademoiselle as much as I’ve tried) and Diana Krall’s voice and piano (a fellow Canadian!), and I agree with your interesting association of 1932. Chanel perfumes are seamless. Both music and perfume are gifts! xoxo

    • Musette says:

      I’m so glad to have been of service! Alas,yeah on the Coco Mlle, though even with that there’s no denying it’s well done. Xoxo

  • Portia says:

    Hey Musette,
    The whole of jazz has passed me by. Sorry.
    CHANEL on the other hand, that I love, and YOU
    Portia xx

    • Musette says:

      Hey,dollface!! Do you have a House for any of your musical faves?

      • Portia says:

        That’s not really the way that my perfume passion goes Musette.
        I have been jumping gingerly around the house to
        ITZY: In The Morning (English version)
        STAYC: So Bad
        Aespa: Next Level
        Dua Lipa: Break My Heart
        Ciara: Thinking Bout You
        Perfect for cleaning the house, doing all the chores. Often done in the lavish wafts of vintage Shalimar parfum.
        Portia xx

  • Rina says:

    I love Ms. Krall so much! AND! She’s married to Elvis Costello! How could you not mention that as part of her COOL factor? I disagree, though, I think she is Coco…(or Black Cashmere, if you want to go DK).

  • March says:

    I am learning so much about music from you, and I appreciate it! It’s given me so much to listen to, it’s fun to try out new music (okay new to me) in a new place. xo